Once upon a time, as it was heard by me, two demon brothers performed austerities and got really, ominously powerful.
This is so often the way these stories begin, you know: demon wants power. Demon does a boatload of arduous yoga. Demon attains power. Demon runs amuck.
Same old story. That’s the way it is with demons.
On this occasion, the gods got nervous about all this power the demon brothers were tossing around. Rightly so. One demon was killed. That’s what you get for showing off.
His brother was pissed.
Rambha–that was the brother’s name–responded by doing more yoga than ever. You see, if you do enough yoga, the gods have no choice but to grant you boons, even if their hearts aren’t in it. Bestowing boons is part of the job description when you’re a god. If you don’t like it then don’t become a god.
Knowing the nature of boons, Rambha did enough yoga to force further powers out of the gods. Don’t blame the gods; he more or less held a gun to their heads.
When he had the gods backed into a corner he demanded brilliance, beauty, and invincibility in war. He also made a special wish that made him invincible to gods, humans, and demons. Considering himself immortal, Rambha figured he could finally kick back. Roaming in an enchanted garden, he spied a she-buffalo and developed a major boner for her. I’m not really sure what to say about that. She was a hottie, I guess.
Lickety-split, Rambha turned himself into a he-buffalo. Before long they were doing what two adult buffaloes of legal age, who like and respect each other very much, do when they are alone together.
That’s when the she-buffalo’s mate came home from work early. Oh boy! Utterly unable to take a joke, he gored and killed Rambha dead. He was able to do that because–being a buffalo–he was not a god, or a human, or a demon. Sometimes being a buffalo comes in handy.
With the death of her new paramour, the she-buffalo was despondent. She saw no reason to live. It was either that, or she was just sick of the way her mate never, ever picked up his socks, or made the bed. Either way, she leaped into the funeral pyre, and that was the end of her.
Only thing was–unbeknownst, the she-buffalo been pregnant. Her son survived the fire. With the body of a human and the head of a buffalo, he was–by a great stretch of the imagination– called Mahishasura, or Buffalo Headed Demon.
Not only was Mahishasura incredibly powerful–he was a huge pain in the ass. He ran ramshackle on earth, then defeated the gods, and thew them out of heaven. When he captured Indra’s throne and declared himself king it was the last straw.
Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva–the gods who respectively create, sustain, and destroy the world–evaluated the situation. They agreed that it was about as dire as dire gets. They decided to combine powers. This resulted into a flash of light so brilliant it was like looking into the sun. At first they saw black but when they regained vision they beheld the beautiful, terrible, goddess Durga.
Each of the gods gave to Durga his or her strongest weapon. It was kind of like that part of Sleeping Beauty, when all the fairies bestow a magical gift at her christening. It was lucky she had hundreds of arms to hold all those weapons.
Mahishasura was a randy little devil, just like his father. When he saw Durga, he wanted a piece of that, and proposed marriage. She agreed to marry him if he could defeat her in battle. Thus began a scary and terrible battle that raged for nine days.
Finally, on the ninth day, Durga smashed Mahishasura down with her foot. She speared him through the neck, then cut off his head.
Everybody lived happily ever after, until the next time some pain in the ass demon did a boatload of arduous yoga.
Oh! And that, boys and girls, is why we celebrate these nine nights of Navaratri.
May you deftly slay all your buffalo demons.
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